How to Protect Livestock from Lightning

We’re all aware that you can’t prevent lightning, but you can however, take effective measures to prevent your livestock from being struck by it. Depending on the cattle you purchase, it can cost anywhere from $500 all the way up to $3000 per animal, which is certainly an investment you want to protect and save yourself from having to make an insurance claim.

Lightning strikes and storms are very common across the U.S, with some states having more lightning action than others. Lightning is also a common cause of livestock deaths every year due to the nature of them being outdoors feeding near water, trees and fences.

With lightning being able to jump from objects, one lightning strike on cattle is enough to wipe out an entire herd if they’re grazing close enough to one another. To reduce the chances of losing your cattle or other animals outside to a lightning strike, check our advice below.

Keep Tabs on the Weather

This sounds very simple, and it is. By checking and assessing the weather ahead of time, you can potentially save alot of hassle by getting your livestock indoors or out the way for any storm forecasted. 

Lightning Heading Towards Cattle

If lightning is on the cards and you can’t move the animals to safe shelter, then it still gives you time to move equipment, shut gates, doors etc., to stop the cattle from moving to other more dangerous areas such as under trees.

Use Safe, Grounded Shelters

As mentioned above, if you can plan ahead of time for an electrical storm, then you should look to move livestock to a safe, grounded shelter. If the shelter or cover is not safely grounded, then it’s not worth the risk of moving the animals there.

Livestock in Grounded Shelter

The shelter also needs to be in a safe location, this means it’s not near any power lines, trees, electric fences and is ideally in a low-lying area. If it’s not in a safe location and is not grounded correctly, you run the risk of losing all the animals and equipment inside.

Tree Management

Being near a tree during lightning is one of the worst and most dangerous places your animals could possibly be, and it’s only natural that livestock would look to take cover under trees when bad weather comes around.

Most of it is down to tree management and how the trees are planted in the first place. If you do have control over how the trees are planted and planned out, then try to make sure they are in rows rather than bunched together in groups, this reduces the chance of a strike bouncing and wiping out a whole herd.

Tree Management for Lightning

If you don’t have control over the positioning of the trees, then the next best thing to do is put fencing and gates around them so you can stop the livestock getting near them if lightning is on the horizon.

Keep Away from Power Lines

It goes without saying and seems like common sense, but keeping animals away from power lines is essential when lightning strikes, as a direct hit on a power line can cause devastation to any nearby animals or shelters they are under.

Cattle Under Power Line in Field

This goes back to our previous point about ensuring that any shelters you do use for the animals are in a safe location and not near any power lines. If lightning strikes a power line near a shelter or barn, then the whole thing could go up in flames aswell as taking out any animals, leading to a very large insurance claim.

Keep Away from Electric Fences

Though it is less common for lightning to directly hit an electric fence line, one direct strike on an electric fence is enough to send sparks flying and wipe out any animals grazing nearby.

Livestock Eating Near Electric Fence

If you can’t move livestock away from an electric fence for whatever reason, turn the electric fence charger off before, or during a storm at the mains and power it off completely. This creates the issue of the fence not being as effective, however, it has to be done for safety reasons during a storm to protect animals, aswell as protecting your energizer from serious damage.

Make Sure Water Troughs are in Low-Lying Areas

Ideally, you shouldn’t have livestock anywhere near water when lightning is around, but if you do leave water out for them, make sure that any troughs or water containers are in low-lying areas. The last place drinking water should be is on a hill or high elevated areas where lightning is more likely to strike.